Six Reputation Management Hints for Small Businesses
November 22, 2022
In today’s increasingly online business marketplace, consumers will use a search engine, nearly always Google, to learn as much as they can about the companies they’re looking to do business with. You probably do so yourself. And if that search engine fails to reveal your company or if your business does show up with poor reviews and an unattractive online presence, those customers may look elsewhere. The act of improving your online brand is known as reputation management, and it’s an integral part of bringing in new customers and ensuring that your existing clientele returns for more.
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What Do Customers Look At?
When customers search for your business, there are a few things they’re going to look for. First, have you set up Google My Business? Setting up your free Google My Business account means that it takes only a glance for searchers to see your hours, location, phone number, and reviews. If you own a restaurant, you can even include your menu. Such businesses are also easily found in Google Maps, so a customer searching for “Restaurant Near Me” might be able to easily navigate to your front door from that app as well.
But a simple Google result isn’t all that consumers look at: there’s Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, and Glassdoor. They might see what people are saying about your company on any or all of those platforms and use those reviews and comments to drive their purchasing habits.
Six Hints for Effective Reputation Management
Now that you understand the importance of online reputation management, here are a few key steps you can take to make sure that your company always gets off on the right foot with potential customers.
Ensure that you’ve got brand consistency online
Imagine you’re trying to find a place to buy a nice bottle of tequila in your town. You’re pretty sure there’s a Main Street Liquor, so you punch that phrase into your favorite search engine. In a perfect world, your search would result in a precise answer: the location of the store, its excellent reviews, its website, its social media pages, and more. All of those pages and resources would have consistent names, branding, and information.
Unfortunately, many small businesses fall behind in having a consistent and robust online presence. On the one hand, that makes sense. Not many small business owners buy a liquor store because they love setting up social media pages. However, when your company’s got a different name on every social media platform, incorrect hours of operation on Google, and an outdated menu on the website, customers new and old will be put off and maybe even convinced to visit your competitors.
Use SEO to Build your Reputation
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a process by which you build or edit your online presence so that it’s more findable or visible to search engines. After all, the Huffington Post once put it like this: the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of a Google search.
So how does that help build your reputation? Well, you want anyone searching for your company to see the good stuff first and foremost. So build that content into your marketing strategy. After all, search engine results are in many ways a much better way to spread the word about your company than paid advertising is. You probably trust your friends’ opinions on a product much more than you trust a billboard.
You’ve probably got positive reviews and excellent testimonials from your customers or clients. Do you have a page on your company’s website for those testimonials? A robust set of reviews can lead to high Google rankings, giving you two huge benefits: a boost on the search engines to go along with educating potential customers on how your product or service will benefit them.
On top of simply providing additional good reviews, you can use SEO principles to build your website itself. The way your website is structured on the level of its back-end code can help search engines find it. You’ll want to make sure pages on your company’s website are correctly and descriptively named, images are captioned correctly, and make plenty of updates when it’s appropriate. When you go to build or host your website, look at the SEO tools available from your website builder. Most include a few basic SEO tools, but some web design services include a more robust set of options so that your new website is easily found in search engine results.
It’s not enough to simply check comments on Facebook or reviews on your Google My Business page. It’s strongly recommended that you use a few different weapons to help monitor for mentions of your company.
For one, there’s Google Alerts, which work to notify you whenever updates are made online involving a keyword or words, like the name of your business. You’ll be notified the moment your business is named online and can respond appropriately ASAP.
In addition, there are services like Hootsuite and SproutSocial, which work as all-in-one dashboards to monitor multiple social media sites at the same time. You pay a monthly fee but are then able to keep an eye on multiple social media sites without having to actively log in and run searches each day.
Take Your Reputation as Direct Feedback
Bad reviews and a lack of positive content can be extremely frustrating. After all, you know full well that your products and services are doing great for so many people. But you should look at your online reputation as direct feedback. As an opportunity to understand where you can do better.
Really take the time to consider why you got that negative feedback. While negative reviews can be frustrating or demoralizing, they also can be a great learning experience. Did you run late on delivery or scheduled service? Were diners at your restaurant unhappy with a new menu item? Did you think a new product was a brilliant innovation but customers weren’t thrilled? Customer reviews are a key way to determine where your company’s succeeding and where it’s failing. Use your online business reputation to understand where you can do better, and then do better.
This is a huge one. It’s not enough to simply sit back and do your best as a company. Unfortunately, review sites and other aspects of your online business reputation require you to be active – to take part in your reputation management strategy. There are a few ways you can do that.
Ask for Reviews. If you do great work for a customer or client, ask them to give you a review. They can do it in writing, on video, or in an audio medium, but make sure that your happiest and most loyal customers are at least asked to tell the world about the great work your company does. If you’re doing business in the medical field, ask patients about your bedside manner and relaxing facility. If you’re a trucking company, ask for feedback on your timeliness and efficiency. Whatever you think you do really well could be a helpful starting point for feedback.
Feature Great Reviews. Once you’ve got some great online reviews, whether they’re on Yelp, directly to your company, or on Google’s business page, you should see that review as an organic piece of your digital marketing. Think of all the different ways to use a great review. You can post it to social networks, feature it on your website, or even build a paid advertising campaign around it. A great help review can become a highly-engaging tweet or widely-shared LinkedIn post.
Respond to Poor Ones. Part of boosting your business’s reputation online is reacting to a negative review. Negative comments can really drive away new customers, and using that feedback to guide future work is not only a great way to respond, but it’s also just a good strategy for customer experience. If a review online tells you that your product was defective, don’t simply ignore it and hope that the positive reviews will eventually nudge the negative out of sight. Instead, most review platforms allow business owners to respond directly. Be empathetic. Apologize for any issues they may have experienced and offer to make it right. Other customers will see that your company values customer feedback and takes its feedback seriously.
Consider Hiring an ORM Company
Small business owners have to wear many hats. On top of the business itself, many small business owners also must be accountants, hiring managers, advertisers, and more. Thankfully, there are entire companies whose express purpose is building a positive online reputation for a small business. All of these aspects of business reputation management take time. You’ve got to monitor all of the various social media platforms, online reviews, and Google, boost your SEO, and build a marketing strategy that may or may not take your reputation into account.
For that reason, consider hiring a reputation management company. For a fee, they’re able to help go through every single aspect of brand reputation management and ensure that customers are seeing you at your best online. These companies offer content deletion, SEO services, and often help in times of crisis too.
What Do Customers See When They Search For Your Business Name?
In today’s day and age, a negative reputation online can drive customers away from your company before they even look at a product. When your company is found on a search engine, what do you want customers to see? Reputation management helps ensure that customers see great reviews, synergistic branding, and engaging social media posts that lead to a strong influence on purchasing decisions. Whether you’re doing your own review management and other forms of online reputation care or hiring a separate company to provide reputation management services, keep a close and active eye on your company’s presence, and keep customers from turning away before they even make it to the door.